Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

Nutrient-trading programs can reduce bay pollution

Environmental PollutionChesapeake Bay FoundationEnvironmental PoliticsU.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation appreciates the concern about nutrient trading expressed by Dr. Robert S. Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health ("Nutrient trading a dirty deal for the bay, Dec. 9). We would like to present some additional information to the conversation about this complicated and controversial topic.

We agree with Dr. Lawrence that any trading program that allows local waters to remain dirty is unacceptable. Reducing pollution so that local waterways and the bay meet water quality standards is the ultimate goal of the Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. It is also required by the Clean Water Act.

In addition, Dr. Lawrence is right that the Environmental Protection Agency and the states need to be more active in enforcing existing law. Whether it is a concentrated animal feeding operation, a wastewater treatment operation or a municipality treating runoff from urban streets, polluters who violate regulations or laws should be held accountable.

However, enforcing existing laws and regulations is but one arrow in our quiver. Trading is another. Nutrient trading programs, in particular, provide one of the only mechanisms to quantify and offset pollution associated with new development. Experts believe that because of the high cost of reducing urban storm water runoff, the most likely "buyers" in trading markets will be local governments. That means all of us as taxpayers.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choose Clean Water Coalition support a list of 10 principles that ensure a trading program will result in real pollution reductions and protection against pollution "hot spots."

Our bottom line is that we will not agree to any trades, no matter how much money they save, if they fail to insure the following:

•Water quality must be protected or improved — no exceptions. Trades must not degrade local water quality, and trading programs should be structured in ways that result in a net improvement to water quality.

•Before an entity can sell credits, it must have achieved its targeted baseline for pollution reduction. Credits can be sold only when sellers goes beyond what is necessary to achieve their share of pollution reductions.

•Accountability, transparency, and verification are essential. For trading to be viable, the public has to be able to review, comment on, and even challenge a trade.

Trading is complicated — the proverbial "devil is in the details." We believe these obstacles can be overcome, however, and that when they have been, trading could be one of the tools to achieve what Dr. Lawrence, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the public agree on: Clean, safe water for all is an urgent and immediate goal.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is committed to a formal process among all the stakeholders starting in January to work through how we account for new growth and also how we work through all the details of trading. Having perspectives such as Dr. Lawrence's will ensure that the connection between pollution and human health risks is addressed.

Beth McGee

The writer is senior water quality scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
    Related Content
    Environmental PollutionChesapeake Bay FoundationEnvironmental PoliticsU.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    • Fix the Conowingo before another Hurricane Agnes hits [Letter]
      Fix the Conowingo before another Hurricane Agnes hits [Letter]

      I read with interest commentator Anirban Basu's article touting what a great asset the Conowingo dam is and how it enhances the lives of all Marylanders ("Support the dam to support Md.," Oct. 13).

    • How about aerators to clean up the bay?
      How about aerators to clean up the bay?

      I just read the article about dredging the Susquehanna River, and I couldn't help thinking back to the Seoul Olympics where they used aerators to clean up their filthy water and they got it clean enough that all of the rowing events were held in very safe water ("Study: Dredging little help...

    • Damming the bay's pollution
      Damming the bay's pollution

      Here's the gist of the recent report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Conowingo Dam: Don't confuse a red herring with a red tide. The notion that all the pollution woes of the Chesapeake Bay could be heaped on one 86-year-old hydroelectric facility on the Lower Susquehanna River was...

    • All Maryland's waterways deserve protection
      All Maryland's waterways deserve protection

      The Clean Water Act has brought progress to the Chesapeake Bay, but in order to continue the bay on the path to success we must protect all the waterways in Maryland, including the Anacostia River ("Close Clean Water Act loophole," Nov. 12).

    • Support Clean Water Act
      Support Clean Water Act

      On the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a new report from Environment America, "Waterways Restored," highlights the success the law has meant for the Anacostia River, taking it from a state of horrific pollution to giving some hope that it will be safe for swimming and fishing in little...

    • Hogan needs to reverse O'Malley's onerous farm rules
      Hogan needs to reverse O'Malley's onerous farm rules

      In what will be seen as one of soon-to-be ex-Gov. Martin O'Malley's parting shots to the incoming Hogan administration, Mr. O'Malley is pushing through new regulations controlling how farmers fertilize their land ("O'Malley rushes to propose new pollution rules," Nov. 15). Never mind the fact...

    • Dam cleanup too costly
      Dam cleanup too costly

      Regarding the recent commentary about the Conowingo Dam ("Maryland can enforce dam cleanup," Nov. 19), Bob Irvin is correct for the most part. However, let's keep in mind that the Conowingo is a man-made obstruction to sediment, leaves and tree logs that Mother Nature really intended to go to...

    • Denying Conowingo permit won't clean bay
      Denying Conowingo permit won't clean bay

      While I understand the concern about accumulated nutrient buildup in the sediment upstream of the Conowingo Dam posing a hazard to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as an engineer I do not see what the operation of the dam's power station has anything to do with it ("Maryland can enforce dam...

    Comments
    Loading